“Welcome to our new offices,” smiles Beda Merkelbach. This is the tall young Belgian that Norwegian Yara International – a EUR 9.8-billion revenue company – has chosen to head up its European Business Service Center in Vilnius.
Vilnius feels a long way from Indonesia, where in his last Yara role, Beda was country manager. Before that, the 36-year-old worked as Supply Chain Manager for Yara in Tanzania and Rwanda. “These were exotic locations, and I really enjoyed my time there,” he admits, “but this is one of the most exciting ventures I’ve been involved in during my career. This is the perfect role for me because we are building a new organization in one location from scratch. Even in a multinational, this doesn’t happen that often.”
The official opening of the Yara European Business Service Center on the 6th floor of the Duetto-II building marks an important milestone for the operation, and VIP guests at the event included the Mayor of Vilnius, the Norwegian Ambassador to Lithuania and Invest Lithuania.
“This has all the potential and some of the challenges of a start-up, but we’re fortunate to have the stability of a 113-year-old company behind us,” says Beda. “Right now, we ‘re just 16 people, but by the end of 2019, we expect to be more than 200 professionals, covering end-to-end logistics activities from operational planning and customer service through to transport management and terminal operations.”
More than 40% of Yara’s deliveries are to Europe, and Vilnius was chosen to streamline customer service and transport management operations in this part of the world.
Geert De Raedemaecker, SVP Supply Chain Operations in Yara, describes the opening as significant for Yara. “Our European Business Service Center (EBS) here in Vilnius will be an integral part of our European operations. It is fascinating to see how fast our number of employees is growing. By July 2019, this office will already be too small for our needs and we will move to a permanent location.”
“We have hired some excellent resources so far and a new group of around 30 people will join us in December,” adds Beda. The competition is tough for talent in Lithuania, but he believes Yara’s package and not least their mission will be attractive for the right candidates.
Director of Business Development Department at Invest Lithuania, Gediminas Koryzna, agreed that growing the business in such a short period of time is an ambitious task, but that the Vilnius talent pool provides the right DNA, “with multilingualism, openness and eagerness to stand behind a great cause at its core. Speaking of causes, (…) few businesses come close to Yara in their aim to responsibly feed the world and protect the planet.”
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